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Having appeared in early 2004, what remains most important about this detailed analysis from IBC is that, while some of it is now outdated, most of it remains as pertinent today as then, particularly in regard to official disinterest and (perhaps a little less so) media priorities.

The sad milestone of 10,000 civilian deaths, as recorded by IBC, was cited across the political spectrum (though not necessarily with attribution).

As predicted, this milestone proved to be all too transitory.

1 Cited in Iraq adds its weight to a sad day of remembrance Robert Jensen, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Aug 2000.

5. “We don't do bad things”: Official denials of responsibility

5.a During the war

Throughout the war, coalition spokespersons constantly tried to deflect responsibility for civilian deaths back onto Saddam Hussein. In this, they were simply continuing the tactics of the previous decade, in which the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused primarily by US/UK sanctions but added to by regular bombing raids were attributed, not to the countries who carried out these acts, but to Saddam Hussein who was accused of ‘causing ” these deaths through his failure to accede to the demands of UN Security Council Resolutions. Israel is currently in breach of numerous security council resolutions, yet the USA and the UK rarely attribute any blame to Israel for the thousands of Palestinian deaths (including hundreds of children) caused by the documented actions of Israeli troops. In February 1999, David Bonior, US House Minority Whip characterised the economic sanctions against Iraq as “infanticide masquerading as policy.”1 This policy was ratcheted to new levels of terror in the war beginning March 20th.

When the coalition bombed areas with high civilian concentrations, causing massive destruction to life and property, their spokespersons were quick to blame the Iraqis for positioning military personnel and installations in highly populated civilian areas. To be sure, such tactics on the part of Iraqis were despicable, but the fact remains that it was the USA and the UK who were the unprovoked aggressors in this war. They were free not to attack Iraq, as almost the entire world urged them to do, but they turned away from that choice. Instead they launched a massive “Shock and Awe” onslaught against Iraq, whose regime, predictably, responded with what primitive military means were at its disposal.

When warring factions engage one another in civilian areas both are to blame for the non-combatant deaths that occur and both are liable for investigation for war crimes, especially if they were aware of the civilian presence. Even civilians deliberately put in harm's way cannot be the sole responsibility of only one side in a conflict because if it takes one side to put up unwilling ‘human shields,’ it takes the other to knowingly shoot through them; and ‘partial blame’ is still ‘blame.’ Moreover it is a dubious notion indeed that, provided they loudly proclaim the justness of their cause, aggressor nations can launch wars and absolve themselves of any responsibility for the ensuing mayhem, carnage and horror.

That the US/UK ‘liberation’ plumbed the grisliest depths which wars have to offer is scarcely in dispute – though most of it is left to our imagination rather than examined tirelessly in the way that the war's latest gleaming machinery was paraded on our TV screens.

“The horror. The horror,” wrote Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times, “And unlike Apocalypse Now, there are real, not fictional images to prove it. But they won't be seen in Western homes.” Filmed by cameramen but censored, scenes described by a Red Cross spokesman and others of “severed bodies and scattered limbs,” “babies cut in half” and other products of cluster bomb technology on the farming communities in and around Hillah, south of Baghdad, were never shown to the nations directly responsible for these charnel-house horrors.2 That this plays into the hands of those who wish only to “accentuate the positive” and “look on the bright side” of war hardly needs stating.

2 Cluster bombs liberate Iraqi children Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, 4 Apr 2003.

3 Cited as evidence in a War crimes complaint against [U.S. General Tommy] Franks filed in Belgium on behalf of 19 Iraqi civilians, reproduced at, 14 May 2003.

4 The proof: marketplace deaths were caused by a US missile Cahal Milmo, The Independent, 2 Apr 2003.

5 In Baghdad, blood and bandages for the innocent Robert Fisk, Independent on Sunday, 30 Mar 2003.

The hospital was a scene from hell

Up to 55 civilians died on the day a busy market in the Shula district of Baghdad was hit. MATW doctor Geert Van Moorter was at a nearby hospital a few hours after the incident. He reported: “The hospital was a scene from hell. Complete chaos. Blood was everywhere. Patients were shouting and screaming. Doctors heroically trying to save their patients. In that one small, 200-bed hospital they counted 55 dead, 15 of them children. The pictures I made are too horrifying to send.” He added that the market is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Baghdad and that there are no military targets, not even big buildings, within several kilometres.”3

Both the US and UK governments publicly suggested – or rather, speculated – that the explosion was “probably” caused by an ageing Iraqi anti-aircraft missile. However, according to the Independent newspaper, the remains of the serial number of a missile were found at the scene, identifying it as one manufactured in Texas by Raytheon, the world's biggest producer of ‘smart armaments’, and sold to the US Navy. The missile is believed to have been either a HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) device, or a Paveway laser guided bomb. Although the US authorities acknowledged that one of their jets fired at least one missile in the area that day, an official US source claimed that the shrapnel could have been planted at the scene by Iraqi officials.4 However, Robert Fisk, a highly-respected journalist who was internationally honoured for his unmasking of US atrocities in Kosovo, reported that “The piece of metal bearing the codings was retrieved only minutes after the missile exploded on Friday evening, by an old man whose home is only 100 yards from the 6ft crater. Even the Iraqi authorities do not know that it exists.”5

The refusal of the USA to take responsibility for its own behaviour reached another nadir in the case of the slaughter of 7 women and children by US Soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf on March 31st.

A New York Times story of April 1 headlined “Failing to heed warning, 7 Iraqis die” provides the following account:

In a statement issued on Monday night, the Army said that at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, a civilian vehicle approached a military checkpoint on Route 9 near Najaf.

The Army said soldiers at the checkpoint had motioned for the vehicle to stop but were ignored. After warning shots were ignored, the soldiers fired shots into the engine of the vehicle, “but the vehicle kept moving toward the checkpoint,” the Army said.

“Finally, as a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” the statement issued by the Army said.

Upon further investigation, the Army statement said, it was determined that 13 women and children were in the vehicle, which was said to be a van. Seven of the occupants were killed, two were wounded and four others were unharmed.

An officer with the Third Infantry Division, who would not be identified, said this morning, “The soldiers did the right thing.”6

6 Failing to Heed Warning, 7 Iraqi Women and Children Die Bernard Weinraub, New York Times, 1 Apr 2003.

7 Civilian deaths cast a pall on nervous unit Miami Herald, 1 Apr 2003.

8 A Gruesome scene on Highway 9 William Branigin, Washington Post, 1 Apr 2003.

9 As discussed in Official Story Vs. Eyewitness Account, 4 Apr 2003.

Note the crude way in which the New York Times story and headline plays into the hands of the aggressors by the suggestion that by failing to heed a warning these women and children brought about their own death. The reversal of responsibility took on even more bizarre form in the headline over the same story in the Miami Herald, which ran “Civilian deaths cast a pall on nervous unit.”7 It was as if the newspaper was trying to suggest that “Innocent soldiers suffer distress after Iraqi women and children carelessly cause their own deaths.”

However, also on April 1st, The Washington Post8 quoted US Army 3rd Division Captain Ronny Johnson as shouting over the radio to his men after the shooting:

You just (expletive) killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough.

It was reported that a US military investigation has been opened. It is hugely telling that in a subsequent story about the attack on the following day, April 2nd, by a different reporter, all claims of US culpability had been excised from the incident, and only the official line was given.9

5.a During the occupation

Resolution 1483 of the United Nations Security Council, 18 May 2003, gave the US/UK governments the joint and unified legal status of “Occupying Authority.” This resolution calls on the CPA to “promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, in particular working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability...“10

It further “calls upon all concerned to comply fully with their obligations under international law including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907.” The fourth Geneva Convention is entitled “Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” and its 159 articles spell out the absolute responsibility of occupying powers to protect the life, health, and property of civilians.11

Instead of fully accepting that the lack of security since April 2003 is a direct result of the ill-conceived invasion, poorly planned post-invasion occupation, and ill-judged refusal to internationalise of the occupying force under the authority of the United Nations, the CPA has constantly tried to divert the blame for continued and rising civilian deaths on “Saddam loyalists”, “foreign infiltrators” and “Al Qaida.” This abnegation of responsibility reached new levels of farce in London on November 20th when Tony Blair said,

Let us be very clear. America did not attack al-Qaida on September 11, al-Qaida attacked America, and in doing so attacked not just America, but the way of life of all people who believe in tolerance, and freedom, justice and peace.12

Let us be very clear in reminding Mr Blair that Saddam Hussein did not attack the UK or the USA on March 19 th 2003, the USA and the UK attacked Iraq, and in doing so assumed full responsibility for all that has then unfolded in that tragic country. If Al Qaida has indeed been operating in Iraq (and concrete evidence of this is remarkably hard to come by) such operations were only made possible by the US/UK military intervention, and only began after the breakdown in security which that intervention brought about.